Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Record Labels’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THOR HARRIS & JOYFUL NOISE PLAYERS-Is Adam Ok? (2020).

I have been aware of Thor Harris for years.  He’s played in bands that I like and he’s played with musicians I like.

He’s an amazing all-around musician, even if his first/main instrument is drums/percussion.

Thor is also a craftsman–making his own instruments and all manner of other things.

So, when Joyful Noise Records announced that he was their artist in residence this year, I definitely wanted to see what he would come up with.

And so, he has created a 6 LP box set.  And by created, I mean he created the boxes (not the record sleeves, I don’t think) by hand and hand colored each one.  he also drew the album covers.

The first album in the collection (according to the list on the back) is this one, Is Adam OK.

The basis for this recording is this:

When musicians are working on a “song” or a specific “piece”, they are using a certain part of their conscious brains. But before the super narcissistic band leader shows up and takes the reins, they will often hang out making stream-of-consciousnesses music that is often more interesting than the conscripted “songs”.

I really enjoyed this observation about virtuosos and about himself

Interesting things happen when a musician is playing out of her comfort zone. This can be achieved by playing an instrument that you don’t usually play or by playing out of your usual genre. If you hand a guy an electric guitar and he grew up on rock and roll, the outcome is somewhat predictable at this point, mimicry of 50 years of rock and blues players. This is why virtuosos are boring to watch after a few minutes of amazement. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been asked to “play dumber” when recording drum tracks. I spent much of my youth learning hot drum licks, then my early 20s learning not to ever do them.

The first song, “Is Adam OK?” is a 22 minute improv piece.

On “Is Adam OK?” I sat at the piano prepared with sweaters across the strings. Virtuoso, multi-instrumentalist, super-freak Greg Saunier sat beside me at the piano and off into the abyss we wandered for 22 minutes.

The musicians are Thor Harris – piano, xylophone, bass drum; Greg Saunier – piano, vibraphone, bass drum; Jasamine White-Gluz – organ; Sima Cunningham – vocals; Macie Stewart – vocals; Adam Harding – vocals, field recordings, toilet flushing; C.J. Boyd – bass guitar, vocals; Daniel Smith – vocals; Kid Millions – seed husks

The piece starts with repeated piano motif. You can hear the “mistakes” as they hit the “wrong” note or go out of time, but that’s sort of the point of this piece.  Around seven minutes, the vocalists start singing like the middle of Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother.”  I rather like when, around 8 minutes, the percussion comes in and then the bass drum at 10 minutes adds a whole new layer of texture.  By 21 minutes the piece has circled back to the quiet opening with just piano and xylophone.  And it all ends with a flushing toilet

The second track, “Kindest Regards Mr Mapfumo” is 11 minutes long and feels a little less improvised.

I started “Kindest Regards Mr Mapfumo” hoping for a Steve Reich kind of 12/8 piece, but ended up with a Thomas Mapfumo kind of 12/8. A pleasant misstep. The driving instrument is an electric tongue drum that I built. I will soon put instructions for building one yourself on Instagram. I ran it thru an Old Blood chorus/delay/distortion pedal.

Thor Harris – electric tongue drum, Casio organ, marimba; Sarah “Goat” Gautier – organ; Jasamine White-Gluz – guitar; C.J. Boyd – double bass; Sima Cunningham – vocals; Macie Stewart – vocals; Marina Tadic – vocals, güiro; Adam Harding – vocals, Mellotron, guitar, güiro

The tongue drum sounds like a modifed (loud) jaw harp–a cool vibrating sound.  OHMME add some unusual vocals to the song and then a double bass comes in to ground it somewhat.  Around half way through you can totally get lost on all of the various waves of sound that wash over the tongue drum, which feels aboriginal by this point.

The vocals around the 8 minute mark are just lovely–intertwining “do do dos” that flow around almost like an Esquivel space-age-bachelor-pad vocal line.

The third song “Grief Comes in Waves” is 9 minutes and is much more creepy.

On “Grief Comes in Waves”, Andy Stack, Monk Parker and I played layer upon layer of sax and clarinet in 7 minute slabs. We added some other bits and bobs, then sent them to others to have their way with them. Jad Fair, Ohmme, and Adam added things I never would have thought of.

Thor Harris – clarinet, kalimba, organ Andy Stack – alto saxophone, marimba Monk Parker – baritone saxophone, marimba Jad Fair – vocals Sima Cunningham – vocals Macie Stewart – vocals Adam Harding – vocals

The kalmiba and marimba make for some lovely echoing sounds , but its the repeated clarinet and saxophone rumbles and blasts combining with the low organ that create a field of tension.  The vocals are more keening than singing and help to build the air of discomfort.  There’s even  growling sound which could be a human voice or an instrument.

However around half way through, OHMME start singing some syncopated notes and it adds a feeling of hopefulness, somehow.  But the feeling of despair returns by the end, effectively demonstrating the waves of grief.

This is not easy listening, but then, one shouldn’t expect that from Thor Harris.

[READ: February 24, 2020] An Ocean of Despair

This is a short, illustrated story by Thor Harris.  Although I guess it’s not really a story so much as a telling of a low point in his life.

He says in 1992 he left Austin for San Francisco.  He hoped to recover his “Self-esteem and love for life.”  But instead he became terrified of social interaction.  It became so bad he woke up with tunnel vision.  He also began having panic attacks which made it hard for him to work.

He felt suicide would be an escape from the misery, an act of mercy.

In a moment of clarity he called his older sister.  She always made him feel like he was okay.  She brought him back to Texas, told him about depression (the disease) and thought that he might be able to get treatment. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: OHMME-“Jing-a-Ling, Jing-a-Ling” (2019).

OHMME provided gorgeous backing vocals on the previous two Christmas songs that I posted about.  Well, they also have their own song on the JNR Holiday Party, Vol. 2 compilation and it is not quite as beautiful as you might think.

However, what it lacks in conventionality, it more than make up for in coolness.

OHMME is a two-piece band made up of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart.  They both play guitar and sing (there’s other instruments going on as well).

Their voices are gorgeous together, but their music also features some interesting guitar sounds.

“Jing-a-Ling, Jing-a-Ling” is a manic song originally sung by The Andrews Sisters.  There are two parts, a super fast chorus (the “jing, jing a ling” part) and then a middle part that is slower and, in the OHMME version, a bit creepy, maybe.  OHMME is known for their amazing use of hocketing.  [In the medieval practice of hocketing, a single melody is shared between two (or occasionally more) voices such that alternately one voice sounds while the other rests].  It’s a mesmerizing sound that they do perfectly.

This version opens with noisy guitars and the two voices rapidly singing the chorus.

Jing jing a ling jing a ling jing a ling
I love to hear our laughter mingle
Hah hah
Ho ho

But when the ha ha ho ho part comes in, OHMME performs some amazing hocketing to make the sound just stunning.

The slower middle part is played on a deep low guitar with a second guitar playing scraping noises as the two voices sing in close harmony.

It’s over quickly and after a guitar solo the manic chorus resumes.

Everywhere-man Thor Harris is also on this track.   I’m not sure what he’s doing, but I assume the drums and maybe whatever those other weird ringing sounds are (or are those from the guitar?  who knows).

As the song comes to an end, the two voices sing separate ho ho and ha ha and then they ho ho slightly out sync until they return in perfect tuning for the end note.

And if you listen closely at the very end of the track you can hear someone say, “Yeah!  Fucking awesome.”

It’s a really stunning song in just over 2 minutes.

I played it last night for my family and my 12 year old daughter loved it while my 14 year old son did not: “just because it’s weird doesn’t make it good.”

[READ: December 18, 2019] “Amaranth”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

I read this story in Lucky Peach back in 2013.  In that review I gave away a little more than I was planning to this time, so avoid if you want fewer details (but no real spoilers).  I am also surprised at my reaction to the story six years ago.  I thought it was unduly harsh and a little hard to read (the content, not the quality of the story).

Here it is now, six years later with so much badness going on in the world and I found the revenge rather impressive and it gives a little bit of hope for those waiting for a long payback. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KISHI BASHI-“All I Want for Christmas is You” (2019).

The 2018 JNR Holiday Party, Vol. 2 compilation also featured a Christmas song by Kishi Bashi.

It begins with him muttering.  “It’s Christmas.  It’s never Christmas when you’re recording Christmas songs.”

What follows is the remarkably conventional song I’ve heard Kishi Bashi record.  Aside form the obviously hugely conventional nature of one of Christmas’ biggest songs, the style of his singing along with the backing vocals and the general feel makes me surprised this version isn’t played more.

Thor Harris who appeared on yesterday’s bizarre Christmas song, makes an appearance here (although I don’t know what he does).  The gorgeous backing vocals come from OHMME (just like yesterday as well).

K. sings this in his lower register–giving him a very croony sounds (one that is rather unlike his normal singing voice).  The only real nod to it being Kishi Bashi is a the cool violin solo (so much better than a sax solo!).

I would listen to this version over any other, hands down.

[READ: December 17, 2019] “The Science Fair Protest”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This was another confusing story that seemed like it might have been based on something … except the whole premise is crazy.

Even the beginning is hard to parse: “When the new gangsters got elected and took control, atoms could no longer be said to be the smallest form of matter.”  What?

This begat the Science Fair Protest, an ongoing violent disruption.  The narrator says he is no science teacher, but his neighbor, Ram, was an eighth grade biology teacher.  Ram said that the gangsters insisted that instead of him having lab hours once a week, he was to take the students to a field to play a game called Stick & Ball.  You have a stick and, not a ball, but a big rock.  You throw the rock in the air and hit it with the stick as hard as you can. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THOR HARRIS, DUMB NUMBERS-“Carol of the Tubular Bells” (2019).

I really like Joyful Noise Records.  They release some really beautiful music as well as some really out there stuff.  They are the home of Kishi Bashi and Ohmme as well as a number of other terrific bands. But they also release lots of noisy chaotic bands (call it joyful noise perhaps).

For 2018 they released JNR Holiday Party, Vol. 2 and eclectic bunch of holiday songs.

This song was recorded by Thor Harris & Dumb Numbers with David Yow, Ohmme, and CJ Boyd.

Thor Harris is, well, his Wikpedia page says he is “an artist, sculptor, musician, painter, carpenter and handyman.”  Musically he is a composer and percussionist who plays every instrument in the universe (on his last album he was credited with marimba, flute, vibraphone, voice, organ, duduk, tubular bells, gongs ,etc.”

Dumb Numbers is the project Adam Harding whose musical style has been described as doom, sludge, and “swooning feedback pop.”  He has worked with all kinds of people including David Yow, singer of The Jesus Lizard.

That’s the background for this nearly three minutes of bizarreness.

The song starts with a toy piano playing Carol of the Bells.  Soon enough, OHMME sing beautifully the actual song, including the ding dong ding dong.  Meanwhile the counterpoint vocals (normally “Hark how the bells, Sweet silver bells…”) features David You singing “Don’t go insane, don’t go insane” to that melody.

That’s all that Yow sings, over and over for nearly 3 minutes.  And he clearly starts to go a little insane.  His vice fades to a whisper, turns into a rant, and sometimes even gets back on track to the timing.  Meanwhile OHMME sounds really beautiful.

Around 2 minutes in, Yow seems to have lost it entirely, mumbling incoherently until he screams “look out mama, there’s a….”

OHMME stop singing and then the melody of “Carol of the Bells” suddenly morphs into Mike Oldfields’ “Tubular Bells” and the song takes on a whole new tone.

As the song fades Yow screams “Faaaaaaaaalllllllll on your knees.”

This is the song you play when you want everyone to leave your Christmas party.

You can watch Yow sing over the backing track here.

[READ: December 16, 2019] “Show Me Your Dantes”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story was delightfully surreal.  I am very intrigued that it is an excerpt from an upcoming novel which is the second of a trilogy about  character named Prin.  Initially I thought Prin was a woman, because, why not.  But that was quickly settled, when it was obvious Prin was a forty-year old man.

The excerpt starts with Prin being interviewed by a Charlie Tracker.  Charlie asks him what he knows about this job and Prin says that if he got the job he would be working with Charlie but would be working for Hugh, Charlie’s son.

The story seemed to be pretty normal–a man getting interviewed–until Charlie says he is impressed that the Prin wore new shoes to the job interview, “most of the professors I’ve met over the years show up in shoes they stole from hobo camps.”  Since I didn’t know when this story was set I didn’t know how literal that was meant to be. (Apparently not at all).

As the interview gets going Charlie offers to let Prin see “the finest private collection of Dante manuscripts and Dante memorabilia in the United States.”   Charlie is a little disappointed that Prin wasn’t more excited about that but Prin says he’d be more excited if he knew what this position was all about.

Charlie gives a lengthy and affecting explanation of how he got into Dante (it had to do with the Vietnam war and a very disturbing scene).  We also learn about Charlie’s business background and how he succeeded after the war. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KING’S X-Live Love in London (2010).

King’s X released their most recent studio album (XV) in 2008.  It’s been over 11 years since that album came out, but King’s X still tours pretty much all of the time.  They could stand to mix up their setlists a bit from time to time, but they still sound quite good.

This concert was recorded on January 22nd, 2009 at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, not long after XV came out.  As such, there’s five songs from that album.  I actually thought that XV was a pretty great record and these songs hold up quite well with the rest of them.

This show starts, as pretty much all shows do since 1998 with “Groove Machine.”  The opening of “Welcome to the Groove Machine” is a pretty terrific way to introduce everyone to the show.  There’s a slightly extended drum solo in the middle of the song, but nothing too crazy.

It’s followed by a new song, “Alright.”  It features some noisy, squeaky guitars from Ty and is really catchy in it’s simplicity: “one day, (one day) it’s gonna be, (it’s gonna be) alright, (alright) alright, (alright).”  It’s a great singalong.

They quickly jump back to a popular older song, the quiet “Pleiades” although Ty’s vocals sound a little rough on it.  Back to the new record with “Move,” a suitably heavy song, although “What is This?” from the debut sounds much heavier.  You can tell that the band has played this song a lot because dUg is taking liberties with the lyrics: “make you look so fucking foolish.”  And lots of screaming.  Ty’s guitar solo is pretty epic.

Then they play two songs in a row from the King’s X album.  Up first is the quieter, grooving “Lost in Germany.”  Then comes the hugely popular “Black Flag.”

There’s a slightly lengthy bass intro as the band sets up for the new, absolutely rocking song “Pray,” in which dUg once again grapples with religion.  This is another great chanting sing along.

The crowd is excited for the older hit “Dogman” with some more noisy guitars from Ty.  dUg also makes his first reference to pot: after the line “give me a skinny or give me a fat,” he says “I smoke em fat.”

Then there’s two new songs in a row, yet another great sing-along” Go Tell Somebody.”  It’s a rollicking song that sums up the King’s X ethos pretty well: “if you like what you hear, go tell somebody.”  It leads into the quieter, Jerry Gaskill-sung “Julie” a nice song to his wife.  That’s it for new songs as they head back to older albums from here on out.

The first one is the only song from Ear Candy, the rocking “Looking for Love.”  It’s interesting when Ty plays his solo how much the rest of the sound goes away–its just bass and drums while Ty totally wails–a rather long solo for a 4 minute song.  The crowd goes crazy for “Summerland” and you can hear them all singing along to the final verse including the slight pause before it resumes.  The crowd is incredibly important at a King;s X show and it is a bit of a shame that the crowd is mixed out of this recording (I assume it’s a sound board and therefore hard to include the crowd).  But it’s really great to hear them sing along.  Apparently there is also a lot of chanting and such that is edited out for the CD, which makes sense, but is a bit of a bummer if you want to really capture the energy of the show.  At one point dUg even says, “I’ve been listening to you sing all night and its alright.”

They end the set with a rousing 12 minute “Over My Head.”  The extended part comes in the middle, of course.  The song slows down, the crowd starts clapping, and Ty plays a really impressive solo–just wailing around for almost 3 minutes.  Then it’s dUg’s turn.  “Welcome to the first church of rock n roll.”  He talks about the importance of music, “Music got me through a lot of hard times.”  In almost every show he tells a different anecdote.  This time he says, “My aunt told me … its a terrible thing for a man to do the thing he don’t wanna do for the rest of his life.  I decided I’m gonna make fucking music.”  The audience then sings the chorus pretty much through to the end of the song.

Then it’s time for the encore.  (The encore breaks are not evident on the CD).

dUg says, “This is gonna be a long encore.”  It starts with two songs from Faith Hope Love.  “It’s Love” was probably their biggest hit.  The song sounds great, although truthfully their impeccable harmonies sound a little tired here.   It segues perfectly in to “We Were Born to Be Loved” one of the great show enders.  This version runs to about six minutes with some extended moments and that awesomely complex ending sequence.

They come back out for encore 2 and play the lovely “Goldilox.”  The big difference this time is that the crowd sings the entire song!  Quite well, in fact.  dUg doesn’t sing anything and Ty only plays loud between verses.  It’s pretty cool.  They stay with the debut album for one more song, “Visions” which returns to the heaviness but keeps the harmonies.  The end part really takes off with some wild soloing from Ty as dUg and Jerry jam out together.  It’s a wonderfully wild ending and seems like it could easily end the show.  But the band isn’t quite done yet.

There’s one more encore break before they come back with the wild “Moanjam.”  The harmonies seem to have completely lost them by this time, but musically the song is outstanding.  Just a terrific jam that rocks out.

King’s X is a fantastic live band.  And, yes, they are getting older and don’t sound as amazing as they once did, but the energy and musicianship is still top-notch, even almost ten years after this release.

[READ: February 2019] King’s X: The Oral History

Even though I love music, I don’t read a ton of books about musicians.  I kind of don’t care all that much about most of them.  I want to see and hear you play, but I don’t have that much curiosity about your history.

But some bands defy the tropes of rock, and their story can often be interesting.

I’ve been a fan of King’s X for decades and while I knew some things about them, it turns out I didn’t really know all that much.  And it was fun to read this book which is constructed of quotes from the band and the people who were around them.

Most of the people interviewed are huge fans of the band and can’t understand why they were never more successful (a common question).  I also had no idea there was such acrimony between the band and their original unofficial fourth member, Sam Taylor (who does not make an appearance in the book).

Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was to find out that Doug (dUg) Pinnick is 68 years old! That certainly explains why his voice doesn’t sound superlative live anymore.  And fair play to him.  He sounds amazing for 68.  He is otherwise ageless, that guy.  dUg had a pretty rough upbringing–and he didn’t get a bass until he was 23!

Jerry Gaskill has had two heart attacks (!) and is from South NJ (and now lives near Asbury Park–wow, imagine running into him).  He started a band with his dad and his brother when he was 7 years old (Jerry & The Knights).  And they played out at weddings and parties.  How fun is that?

Ty Tabor is the baby at 58. Ty learned guitar from a babysitter and has been playing ever since.  He and others keep referring to Phil Keaggy.  I had never heard of him and was surprised at Ty’s reverence.  Well, Keaggy is an adult Christian musician so clearly I’d never have heard of him.  I listened to a track or two but just couldn’t get past the Christianness of it to really appreciate the music. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: September 12, 2019] Built to Spill

After the last time I saw Built to Spill (which was amazing), I felt like I didn’t really need to see them again.  The show was excellent and I was right in front of Doug–an amazing vantage point.

Then he announced he was touring the Keep It Like a Secret album.  This is the album that introduced me to the band 20 years earlier and it has some of my favorite songs on it.  So yes, of course I was going to go see that.  It turned out that the Philly show was on a night I was busy (but I did get a ticket just in case–turns out my plans changed but then Babymetal announced a show for that night so I sold my BtS ticket for and went to Babymetal instead).  But this show at Starland Ballroom was going to happen the night before my plans anyway, so I grabbed a ticket for this show.

I have mixed feeling about Starland.  If you get there late–and it’s a popular show–forget about it.  When we saw Death Cab for Cutie, we were lucky to get in the door.  So for BtS I left really early and got there really early and was about the 17th person in the building.  So I had my pick of where to stand.

Last time I saw BtS, I was right in front of Doug Marstch, like right on the stage.  It was incredible watching him from so close.  And yet, due to acoustics, I could barely hear him at all.  So I told myself that this time I would stand back and enjoy the whole experience.  But things got the best of me.  First off, there was a gate, so I wasn’t going to be right up against the stage.  But more importantly as I stood back in a sweet spot, I watch all these tall people push past me and I couldn’t help myself, I had to grab a railing spot.  So once again I was right in front of Doug and his massive amplifier.  I could hear the vocals a little bit better than last time, but again, it wasn’t the same as hearing the full band.  And, honestly I could barely hear the second guitarist.  So, I have really learned my lesson for next time.  But again, it was so cool seeing him work his magic up close that I’m willing to overlook some things.

But NEXT TIME, for sure I will stand back.

Oh and check out this cool poster for the tour.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PET SHOP BOYS-“Always on My Mind” (1987).

I certainly have my favorite Christmas songs.  But it never occurred to me to winder what the perfect Christmas song was.

I love music; I don’t care about “perfect” songs or “algorithms” or anything like that.  I just like what speaks ti me.  But there are those who want to figure out things like the perfect song .

So the geniuses at Ostero Music ran their data, crunched the numbers and determined that Pet Shop Boys’ “Always on My Mind” was the perfect Christmas song (even if  it’s not a Christmas song).

S how did hey figure this out?  They analyzed every (UK) Christmas No. 1 from the past 50 years and found the winning combination of four different components – song duration, key, tempo and the artist’s age.

They also found most Christmas hits tend to be ballads and cover versions – and they are almost all about something other than Christmas.

So this is more about sings that are #1 at Christmastime instead of Christmas songs.

At any rate, the perfect formula is

1. Song duration of 3:57
2. In the key of G major
3. Tempo of 114 bpm (beats per minute)
4. Performer is 27 years old

“I think we’re a long way from an algorithmically-generated Christmas number one,” said Howard Murphy, founder of Ostereo. “But certain characteristics do make a song more likely to resonate with audiences at Christmas.”

So why did the Pet Shop Boy win?

If the formula is applied to all the Christmas No. 1 songs from the past 50 years, the song that comes out on top is the Pet Shop Boys’ 1988 cover of Elvis Presley’s ‘Always On My Mind’. The duo covered the song in G major at a speed of 125 bpm, and the song lasts 3:55. The duo’s average age at the time of its release was 31.5, a few years off the ‘perfect’ 27, but combine this with the length, key and tempo, and you find the Christmas No.1 sweet spot…apparently.

So be sure to include this song on your next holiday mix and see everyone observe how perfectly it fits.

[READ: December 19, 2018] “In This Fantasy”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection, although today’s SOUNDTRACK is a special 2018 holiday news item (sort of).

Kim Fu summarizes her story rather well in the Q&A with Kim Fu. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »